I was a child that spent a lot of time in forests. I could tell you that we were not only a camping family, but also a foraging family that would often go deep into the woods of B.C. to hunt for matsutake mushrooms. I'm also familiar with islands, we spent most of our summers on Toquart Bay on Vancouver Island camping off the beaches and catching our day's food of fish, crab and clams from the ocean. A forest can mesmerize you; it can welcome you into a deep, dark green that will send you some place away from 'city'. You can allow yourself to get lost in a forest and later have to find your way wading through a dizzy of fallen tree, beaten paths, and exists leading to nowhere.
I could say that for this project...a forest…wait, no a forest island called me.
When I came back from my residency in Koganecho I had a moment's rest and then went into what I would call a very condensed production period to produce a new work for a group exhibition with Khan Lee and Yu Toida in Yonago, Tottori-ken, Japan as part of a residency program called AIR 475. When guest curator, Makiko Hara, and I visited Yonago for a site-visit in August we went on a small boat tour that took us through small canals (Yonago's older architectural structures included moats and castles) and then out into the sea. The boat's tour guide would inform us about the city's history, some of its changes and about places from memory. One in particular was the memory of a restaurant that was on one of the small islands off the shore of Yonago near a bird sanctuary. He remembers people telling him about the restaurant and the woman who worked there. This new audio work departs from this point; at the telling of this 'story' which at the time could have been fact or maybe fiction.
Set in the 1960's post war Japan, within a restaurant on a forest island, Paper/紙 is the first chapter of a trilogy of short stories that I conceived within the context of the child's game 'Rock, Paper, Scissor' and they connect 'chance' meetings between fictional characters based on historical facts and the natural resources coal (rock), paper (lumber), and iron (scissor). In September I spent some time at the Nikkei Museum researching migration from Yonago to Vancouver and was surprised to come across the amount of information documented in a book called 'Tracing Our Heritage to Tottori Ken Japan' by the ontario Tottori Ken Jin Kai translated by Pat Adachi. There I found several early pioneer histories dating back from the 1890's-1900's and researched that several of these pioneers came over from Tottori and found home within the islands of B.C. including Mayne Island, Pender Island, etc.
This first chapter looks at the forest island and particularly we are drawn in through the magic of lumber. I began to sift through the archives for some connection to the lumber industry and came across historical information of a massive forest purchased on Pender Island by a migrant from Yonago in the 1900's. He then goes on to call several other immigrants from Tottori to join him in the booming lumber industry including work at the Port Alice Mill. He does this through a letter which is called a 'yobiyose letter' - literal translation 'to call over' - trying to bring members of his prefecture across the Pacific to start up another 'community'. As archival work does; it sends you off into a maze - moving from one story to another, another photograph to another and deeper and deeper into a different world.
Paper/紙 is essentially a chance encounter between two characters across the pacific; from two different geographies, two different time periods. K is our main protagonist with a banal life working at her family's restaurant on the island surrounded by forest, she happens to let a mysterious pioneer into her cafe and a causes a chain of strange things to emerge.
Sometimes an artwork can call 'things' - I would say to work in the archives has this kind of ability as well…strangely, over the course of making this work things started to appear. The organizers were able to get a hold of the original, print-based materials on the restaurant which was called 'Tatsumi-Tei' from the 1930's (see image in the gallery) and on the day of the boat experience, the daughter of the family who owned the island to which the restaurant was built upon, was able to sit with me and listen to the audio piece.
Have a listen..it is in Japanese, but rumour has it Antoine and I are recording an English version come December... https://soundcloud.com/c-mochizuki/paper
Paper is available as a audio,video, and archival photo-based installation, an audio work (made for a boat tour) and a bookwork in Japanese. Special thanks to Kazuho Yamamoto (translation), Antoine Bédard (sound design) and Catrina Megumi Longmuir (camera and video editing).